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Torah scroll

  • Place of origin:

    Lithuania (probably, made)

  • Date:

    1850-1870 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Parchment, ivory and ink

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Edgar Astaire

  • Museum number:

    M.6-2012

  • Gallery location:

    Sacred Silver & Stained Glass, Room 83, The Whiteley Galleries, case 8C

The scroll was probably made in Eastern Europe in the 19th century. It contains the five books of Moses (the Pentateuch): Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The scrolls are wound on rollers called Trees of Life (Azei Hayyim) a reference to Proverbs 3, 18: 'She [the Law] is a Tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is everyone that retaineth her'.

Physical description

Miniature Torah scroll. Parchment. Wound on ivory (or possibly bone) rollers. The scroll has been restrung with string, not the traditional sinew. The lettering is fine and shows it was written by an accomplished scribe.

Place of Origin

Lithuania (probably, made)

Date

1850-1870 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Parchment, ivory and ink

Marks and inscriptions

Text contains the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.
the inscription on the roller reads Bat Sheva me Vilna

inscribed on the roller with'Bat-Sheva me Vilna

Dimensions

Height: 11 in, Width: 4.5 in

Object history note

The scroll is circa 1850-1870. This is based on the type of script which is not more that 350 years old. The roller of the scroll is inscribed with Bat Sheva me Vilna which shows it came from Lithuania, known as little Jerusalem. Vilnus was a centre of Jewish life.

Historical context note

Contemporary Judaica in Britain
Judaica has always reflected the artistic styles of its time. In the late 19th century ceremonial silver was available through large companies such as Joseph & Horace Savory and cherished pieces were brought into England by the Jews who had fled the pogroms in Eastern Europe. In the first half of the 20th century the two world wars and the Holocaust meant that little Jewish silver was produced. It was not until Jewish communities had become more established that synagogues began to commission new work. The designers were often non-Jewish, as was Professor Gerald Benney, the eminent silversmith who began to make ceremonial objects in contemporary styles in the 1960s. More recently a new generation of silversmiths, including Tamar de Vries Winter, have continued to make ritual objects. Their work has enabled traditional Jewish religious customs and practices to be fulfilled in a modern style.

Descriptive line

Torah scroll, fine parchment, (Hebrew, Gvil) possibly calf, and ink, probably Lithuania, 1850-1870.

Labels and date

Torah Set
The distinctive style and simple lines of this miniature Torah set are a departure from the forms of traditional Judaica. The silversmith, Professor Gerald Benney, is not Jewish himself but he began to make Jewish ceremonial objects in the 1960s, using a contemporary style.

The scroll was made in the 19th-century. It contains the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) and is wound onto rollers called the Trees of Life, a reference to the biblical verse 'She [the Law] is a Tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is everyone that retaineth her' (Proverbs 3, 18).

The breastplate or Torah shield (Tas) is hung from the staves of a Torah and is engraved with a menorah (the Hebrew word for a seven-branched candelabrum), a traditional emblem of the Jewish people. The rimmonim (pomegranates) fit on top of the staves. The mantle is embroidered in Hebrew 'Ezer, son of Mordekhai'. The pointer, or yad (hand) is used by the reader to follow the sacred text. When not in use, it is hung by a chain over the Torah breastplate.

The spice box is used during the Havdalah ceremony that marks the end of the Sabbath, the holy day of rest. The spices are blessed and the box is passed around for all to smell. After the ceremony, the new week starts.

Breastplate, spice box, yad and rimmonim
London, England, 1982 (rimmonim 1995);
designed and made by Gerald Benney (born 1930)
Silver, partly gilded
Lent by Edgar Astaire
Mantle
London, England, 1998; by Tamara Zlotogoura
(born 1955)
Velvet, cotton and glass beads
Lent by Edgar Astaire
4
5
Scroll
Eastern Europe, 1800-1900
Parchment and ink
Lent by Edgar Astaire [22/11/2005]

Production Note

The scroll ( inscribed on the roller with Bat sheva me Vilna) probably left Vilna (Lithuania) in the 1890s during the time of the first wave of immigrants who left to settle in either the UK, USA or South Africa.

Materials

Parchment; Ivory; Ink

Techniques

Inscribed; Carved

Categories

Metalwork; Religion; Judaism

Collection

Metalwork Collection

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